Podcast: Building the Perfect Summer Music Festival

Unfortunately, we won’t be celebrating in the sun this summer while attending our favorite music festivals, so we decided to dream big. What if we could create the perfect lineup for our own summer music festival? Kiel Hauck is joined by Kyle Schultz and Nadia Paiva on the latest podcast as they take turns selecting bands to fill out their lineup card. The catch? Each band must be selected from a specific year and no two bands can appear on the same lineup. Fun and chaos ensue. Take a listen below and scroll down further to see our full lineups!

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Kiel’s Lineup

Nirvana (1992)
Genesis (1986)
Lauryn Hill (1999)

Paramore (2008)
Underoath (2005)
The Weeknd (2012)
The 1975 (2013)
Carly Rae Jepsen (2016)
My Chemical Romance (2004)
MxPx (1998)
Tears for Fears (1985)
Jewel (1995)
Nas (1994)
Frank Ocean (2011)
Clipse (2002)

Kyle’s Lineup

Green Day (2010)
Taylor Swift (2012)
The Ramones (1980)

AFI (2020)
Saves The Day (2006)
The Interrupters (2021)
Goldfinger (2020)
Something Corporate (2004)
Homegrown (2004)
Reel Big Fish (2010)
Chiodos vs Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows (2011)
Cartel (2007)
Jason Mraz (2009)
The Academy Is… (2005)

Nadia’s Lineup

Lorde (2017)
The Killers (2004)
Death Cab for Cutie (2005) 

Marina and the Diamonds (2012)
Regina Spektor (2009)
twenty one pilots (2013)
Relient K (2004)
Mumford and Sons (2012)
Hayley Williams (2020)
Panic! at the Disco (2011)
Falling Up (2013)
Closure In Moscow (2014)
Quiet Company (2011)
Turnover (2015)
Flyleaf (2005)

What is your dream music festival lineup? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

The Best Songs of 2019

You can view our list of The Best Albums of 2019 here.

As the decade comes to a close, one thing is for certain: The way I consume music and media has changed drastically over the past 10 years. We’ll (probably) always lead our end-of-the-year lists with albums, because there is still power to be found in that full body of work. But I certainly find myself most often jumping from track to track these days.

Thus, our Best Songs of 2019 list is full of tracks that can be fully enjoyed within the context of the album that contains them (if one exists) or completely on their own. This year found each of our writers diving into new sounds and exploring new artists, leading to an eclectic list of songs we hope you’ll enjoy as much as we have this year. Without further ado, take a look – and a listen.

15. Say Anything – “Sediment”

“Sediment” makes the list because of the spoken word at the end. The entirety of Oliver Appropriate focuses on Oliver and his conflictions regarding his sexuality. A confliction that ends up with a murder/suicide. This track is regarding the suicide half, but it’s a peek into Oliver’s mind, and how lonely his self hatred has made him. It’s a show-stopping final track, and an epilogue to Say Anything’s career. – Nadia Paiva

14. Blaqk Audio – “Summer’s Out of Sight”

“Summer’s Out of Sight” is a wickedly hypnotic song. Vocalist Davy Havok croons through a tale of passion and fleeting love. Jade Puget’s bright synth melodies and rich bass express the playfulness of being in love (“I had to crawl the halls to ask when we might meet before you left / You said, ‘Maybe tomorrow or never again’ / But you said, ‘Right now I’m yours”). Although Havok’s chorus is a devastating description of a broken heart (“Hearing you leave out my name makes me want you / You personalize pain”), “Summer’s Out of Sight” is a message about the impact of a relationship and the draw it leaves on someone to find it again. (“I’m searching for the one that tore me to pieces”). – Kyle Schultz

13. Bring Me the Horizon – “medicine”

“Some people are a lot like clouds, you know? / ‘Cause life’s so much brighter when they go”. With that opening line, Oli Sykes at once references his own messy past while serving as a kind nod to a band that has fully transformed into a new entity. In many ways, “Medicine” is a zero sum game that fans of the band’s deathcore past were always bound to hate while opening the door to a new audience and new beginnings. Whether you love or hate this new incarnation of Bring Me the Horizon, there is no denying their ability to craft great songs, genre be damned. And the dirty little secret that has gone largely unmentioned is that pop sensibility was always at the root of the 2010s metalcore explosion. Most bands just aren’t brave enough to bring it to the surface. – Kiel Hauck

12. Wallows – “Remember When”

This is a track that Wallows wrote for another project and scrapped – and yet it ends up being, lyrically, the most poignant track on Nothing Happens. We hear about a past love, and how the good times outweighed the bad. Wallows wishes they could go back and fix every mistake they made, but because they can’t they focus on the better memories. It’s the second to last song on the album, but really ties everything together. “Remember When” is what the end of youth is about – sitting with your friends talking about all the trouble you used to cause. – NP

11. Grayscale – “In Violet”

“In Violet” is an ambitious, beautiful song about life and love. It is a song that describes a funeral as a colorful celebration. Vocalist Collin Walsh finds himself at his lowest point (“I’m out of hope, guess that’s the way it goes / When you burn dark and slow”), but still asks listeners not to grieve a life lost, but be thankful for a life lived (“I’m sick of funeral black / So when I don’t come back / I want you to celebrate / Sing and laugh”). Ultimately, the song is an uplifting message dancing amidst a cloak of intense instrumentals. Heavy drums, shimmering guitars and joyful trumpets set the tone by setting up a dreary atmosphere early on before exploding into waves of expansive, envious sound. – KS

10. Travis Scott – “HIGHEST IN THE ROOM”

Travis Scott could have easily ridden the success of last year’s Astroworld throughout the entirety of 2019, but instead found new ways to own the moment. “Highest in the Room” captures what makes Scott such a unique voice amidst the Soundcloud rap era, with every turn of phrase adding a new angle and keeping listeners on their toes. Delivered as a dark sort of love story, Scott keeps his partner at a safe distance, singing, “You say you love me, don’t you lie / Won’t cross my heart, don’t wanna die”. It’s rather poetic then that Scott and Kylie Jenner, the subject of the song, parted ways just two days prior to its release. – KH

9. Queen of Jeans – “Not a Minute Too Soon”

“Not a Minute Too Soon” is an unassuming track, which is why it makes the list. The album itself is a great study in vintage 60s rock, but this track stands out for its crescendo. It sits as a surprise ballad about three quarters through If you’re not afraid, I’m not afraid, an album about love and loss. Queen of Jeans’ Miriam Devora’s vocals really shine here, specifically, her falsetto driving home the emotion and the guitar gently guiding us through ending a relationship. – NP

8. Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties – “Just Sign the Papers”

“Just Sign the Papers” is the type of song that country artist storytellers dream of. It’s slow, uncomfortable, rich with visual poetry and is a vortex of emotion. Every small detail shows the stress of main character Aaron West as he finalizes a divorce from his wife. While the music is playful as he reflects on the marriage’s good times (“You were the tail lights, like a lifeline, when the storm arrived”), it slows to a crawl as he pleads to his wife, “C-come on, just sign the papers”. The swell of music embraces the gut-churning pressure of the event, as Campbell portrays West screaming at himself, “Come on, just sign the papers” just to end the event. As depressing as it may be, “Just Sign the Papers” offers the briefest glimpse of hope, as the couple decides to put an end to their gloom. – KS

7. Maggie Rogers – “Light On”

Maggie Rogers’ debut album Heard it in a Past Life arrived early in 2019, nearly three years after her viral introduction to the public at large. It must have felt like both an eternity and a matter of moments for the music student swooped up into a major label whirlwind. Yet for all of the hype, Past Life is nothing if not authentic, peaking with the track “Light On”, which finds Rogers dealing with that rapid rise to fame and the loss of control that comes with such an event. Was there a more emotionally affecting moment in music this year than when Rogers’ channels here inner Alanis as her voice breaks near the end of the second verse? “With everyone around me saying, ‘You must be so happy now’”. – KH

6. Lana Del Rey – “Mariners Apartment Complex”

This was the first taste we got of the new Lana Del Rey album prior to its release, and maybe that’s why it stuck with me all the way to my best songs list. Another reason could be the way she chose the first single so specifically to target the difficulties she’s had with her fame. The song revolves around an interview gone awry, and it’s a jab at the industry as a whole, but it also ends up being a song about putting yourself first. And that’s more important when you’re faced with fame than any kind of criticism you can give the biz. – NP

5. Radar State – “Victims of Fashion”

“Victims of Fashion” is a generational battlecry by Radar State, a super group of members from Kansas emo groups The Get Up Kids and The Anniversary. Both bands gained notoriety in the late 90’s and forged the fledgling emo movement of the early 2000’s. “Victims of Fashion” takes a defiant stance against the emphasis on youth in music and feeling forgotten (“If we don’t go out tonight, we might as well stay out of sight / Kids in line will gladly take our place”). Radar State takes a chance by calling out stagnancy in musicians that don’t evolve (“And if you think that we’re so strange, keep telling us to change / I’m not taking orders from someone half my age / … / This whole scene is getting old / We moved on, but they’re on hold”). Radar State embody the philosophy of punk rock by challenging the status quo with an elegantly melodic, yet brutal piece of garage rock.– KS

4. BTS featuring Halsey – “Boy With Luv”

I joined the K-pop party a bit late, but all it took was one SNL performance to finally capture my attention. I won’t pretend to have a deep connection with the lyrics of “Boy with Luv”, but it’s impossible to not feel enraptured by the sound. BTS have a way of commanding your focus by transitioning between style and delivery throughout their songs without it ever feeling jarring. “Boy with Luv” embodies everything I love about the way I feel when I listen to a great pop song, which means that even with a language barrier in place, I’m inclined to hit the repeat button with abandon.– KH

3. Copeland – “As Above, So Alone”

Even though any and all tracks from Blushing could justifiably be included on this list, “As Above, So Alone” was instantly my favorite track on one of the best albums of the year. Copeland vocalist Aaron Marsh talks straightforwardly about how tough his relationship is, but it’s easy for the sadness of the track to get lost in the bassline that cuts through the middle. It’s imaginative, devastating, and surprisingly easy to keep on repeat. – NP

2. Taylor Swift – “Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince”

“Miss American & The Heartbreak Prince” is one of Taylor Swift’s most ambitious songs. It is a story about the upsetting state of American politics told through a story of young love. The gloomy beat and tinkling piano offer a somber and fearful atmosphere amid lyrics that continuously get darker (“American stories burning before me / I’m feeling helpless, the damsels are depressed / Boys will be boys, then where are the wise men?”). However, the song is an anthem of defiance. Even as the picture it paints is a dreary one, peppy shouts of  “Go! Fight! Win!” punch through the song brightly. “Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince” is ultimately a song of overcoming the worst of situations by strength of will in almost any circumstance. – KS

1. Halsey – “Without Me”

We didn’t get a new album from Halsey in 2019, but we got plenty of new songs, none of which were more riveting than “Without Me”. Break-up songs are nothing new, but Halsey took this particular opportunity to craft something deeply personal, leaving nothing to the imagination. “Name in the sky, does it ever get lonely?” isn’t necessarily a line we can all feel on an existential level, but throughout the track, Halsey drills in on the quieter kinds of emotional abuse that too often go unspoken.

When she sings, “Just running from the demons in your mind / Then I took yours and made ‘em mine / I didn’t notice ‘cause my love was blind” it’s a powerful kind of moment that deserves our attention and self-reflection. – KH

Honorable Mention:

Turnover – “Much After Feeling”
Neck Deep – “She’s a God”
Carly Rae Jepsen – “Want You in My Room”
Drake featuring Rick Ross – “Money in the Grave”
Issues – “Tapping Out”

Posted by Kiel Hauck

The Best Albums of 2019

With our Best of the Decade lists in the books, it almost feels anticlimactic to look back on just 2019. But that would be unfair to a year that provided us with a breadth of music that broke molds, reinvented artists, and introduced us to some of the voices that will surely define the next decade.

We previously talked about 2019 as a year that saw the end of genre as we know it. And sure, that’s probably an overstatement, but it’s clear that this year saw a very real blurring of the lines. The best hip hop album of the year could hardly be categorized as just that. Much of this year’s pop music felt fresh and starkly different than what we’re accustomed to. So let’s look back at a year full of surprising and fascinating albums. And as always, share your favorites in the replies!

15. blink-182 – NINE

I am of the camp that believes that 2016’s California was the moment of blink-182’s true re-birth. An album that captured at least some of the spark of the band’s early days without feeling like it was set in the past. But I wasn’t expecting NINE – an album that sounds like a band (finally) growing up and expanding their sound in all of the ways that make sense. And look, I’m aware of the need for eye rolls upon seeing an album like this on a list like this, but when I listen to NINE, I hear an album that feels fresh and relatable. And that’s not normal for a band that saw its heyday flash before its eyes two decades prior. – Kiel Hauck

14. New Found Glory – From the Screen to Your Stereo III

Anyone can make an album of covers, but it takes talent to make them sound unique and worth covering. From the Screen to Your Stereo III is not only the best of New Found Glory’s series of songs from movies, these songs sound as though they were made for the band from the start. Fast, playful and emotional, From the Screen to Your Stereo III is a joy to listen to and a masterclass on turning what should be a gimmick into art. – Kyle Schultz

13. Tiny Moving Parts – Breathe

This album may come as a surprise because of the albums I’ve waxed poetic about in our podcasts and other reviews this year. Breathe is the perfect math rock album the scene needed to cement the subgenre as a staple part of the pop punk family. All of Tiny Moving Parts’ albums are great, but Breathe is incredible. There’s not a track out of place, and it flows seamlessly. Tiny Moving Parts are the perfect band to start a math rock journey with, but you may just stop there, because they are truly the best in today’s scene. – Nadia Paiva

12. Bring Me the Horizon – amo

Unlike much of the old metalcore guard that has begrudgingly adapted their sound to something much more mundane and unimaginative, Bring Me the Horizon have spent the better part of the decade crafting their future as artists. Amo is an album unlike any other in rock this year, and maybe ever. A genre-bending affair the finds the band dipping their toe into electronica, pop and alternative, the album twists and turns, sonically and thematically, throughout, keeping the listener off-kilter, but fully engaged. Amo isn’t an album for the fans, but it’s an endeavor that sets them apart from their peers and opens new doors of possibility for a band that is dead set on sticking around. – KH

11. Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties – Routine Maintenance

Considering it is a sequel album, Routine Maintenance manages the seemingly impossible task of meeting the cavernous emotional depths of its predecessor. Creator Dan Campbell shows real growth of Aaron West’s character, who has led quite the life in the five years between albums (“Bury Me Anywhere Else”). Having put Aaron through absolute hell, Campbell successfully shows the resolve and determination of a person building a new life for themselves in a fully realized and vibrant world. Routine Maintenance is an album about rebirth (“Runnin’ Toward the Light”) and the strength of family (“Routine Maintenance”). – KS

10. From Indian Lakes – Dimly Lit

Another album from the DIY, lo-fi world is the latest offering by From Indian Lakes. He released this, his fifth album, independently, and created magic. I love when artists get to truly express themselves and Dimly Lit is one of the best examples. It takes twists and turns, but Joey Vannuchi holds all the strings in his hands, never letting them get tangled. Borrowing plenty of support from the outside, the album is filled with gentle lyrics and a swelling soundscape that will make you fall in love. – NP

9. Carly Rae Jepsen – Dedicated

It isn’t easy to follow-up one of the most heralded pop albums of the decade, but Carly Rae Jepsen has never been one to dwell on past success. Frankly, it’s unfair to compare Dedicated to E-MO-TION, but if you have to split hairs, the former is a more grown-up style of pop music. Jepsen leans into her seductive side without losing the more relatable elements of her lyrics and personality that draw her fans in. From the quirky synthesizers that open the album on “Julien” to the funky beat of “Want You in My Room”, Jepsen finds new tools to add to her arsenal without losing sight of the elements that make for a great pop record. Put plainly, Dedicated is a delight. – KH

8. The Early November – Lilac

Lilac is easily the most diverse album in The Early November’s career. Effortlessly juggling new stylistic choices with the group’s renowned emotional sensibilities, Lilac is ambitious, unpredictable and sweeping. Vocalist and songwriter Ace Enders pushes himself to a career-defining high across an album that is ultimately about finding the strength to save yourself from a number of addictions and vices. The instrumentation from each band member is intricate, lavish and astoundingly gorgeous. After a career of refining their sound, Lilac is the album that The Early November were always trying to write. – KS

7. Wallows – Nothing Happens

While I didn’t formally write about this album this year, it quickly became a favorite. I’ve long been a fan of lo-fi pop rock and Nothing Happens is the best of the best. It’s packaged in soft, melodic ribbons and bows but there’s plenty of punch – glitter in the card, if you will. The members of Wallows wrote a great album about dealing with the end of adolescence and being forced into the big adult world. – NP

6. Tyler, The Creator – Igor

Tyler, The Creator began the decade as one of the most divisive artists in the country, seemingly driven by shock value and an outdated, misogynistic approach in a genre that was trying to shed that label. Things began to shift around the time of Tyler’s surprisingly vulnerable Flower Boy, and Igor seems to capture his full metamorphosis. A venture more inspired by funk and neo-soul than rap, Igor finds Tyler sensitive and gentle as a singer, but more than anything, it solidifies him as an artist willing to take risks. And in doing so, he has become one of the most fascinating producers and songwriters in hip hop. – KH

5. The Regrettes – How Do You Love?

How Do You Love? Is an album that immediately makes a name for itself by being loud, fun and sincere. A collection of songs about falling in love, The Regrettes manage to take the most generic topic in music and make it completely their own. The album is a playful mixture of  sincere sweetness (“Coloring Book”), emotional conflict (“Dead Wrong”) and sarcastic confusion (“How Do You Love?”). The guitars expertly weave indie pop and garage surf rock into an explosive sound. This album also includes one of the year’s best singles and music videos, “I Dare You”. – KS

4. Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell

Lana del Rey released Norman Fucking Rockwell to a fanbase ready for a new direction from the alt pop princess. She tells tales of the harder parts of fame here, highlighting personal insecurities, making the album one of her more relatable projects, but wraps it all in a fresh take on Americana that made the wait worth it. A jazzy cover of a Sublime song and a poignant closer make this album one of the best of the year. – NP

3. Billie Eilish – When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?

Billie Eilish has been on a collision course with this moment for a while now. A moment in which genre lines have become almost completely blurred and artists are no longer confined by industry gatekeepers and the major label machine. No matter how you feel about it, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? has to be considered one of the year’s defining albums, simply because of its impact. At age 17, Eilish may have broken pop music, being much more interested in making something that interests her than making something that comforts our expectations. Funny thing is, Eilish is an undoubtedly great artist, and this thing she has created will be now be mimicked by many, creating a new pool of music that is quite unlikely to hold a candle to its inspiration. – KH

2. Taylor Swift – Lover

A highlight in a career of high points, Lover is a powerful album drenched in romanticism. Every story told throughout the album reflects a hopeful future, even in the darkest moments. Gloss pop mixed with deep R&B beats and hints of Swift’s country roots peek through the cracks to create a sound that is as intimately familiar as it is diverse (“Cruel Summer”). However, Lover still finds time to highlight an anti-patriarchy anthem (“The Man”) and a commentary on the current state of politics (“Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince”). Lover celebrates Swift’s past by somehow poising her future to shine ever brighter. – KS

1. Copeland – Blushing

Blushing is at the top of my list because of how it has stayed in my mind since Valentine’s Day. Along with the unconventional Thursday release date to fit with the album’s themes, the album was one of my most anticipated at the end of 2018, and my first five-star review of 2019. It continued Copeland’s musical journey in the same vein as 2014’s Ixora, and brought back a lot of the whimsy we’ve seen in their earlier releases. Blushing is set to stand the test of time as a beautiful piece of art, and a gem in the crown that is Copeland. – NP

Honorable Mention

Hozier – Wasteland, Baby!
Say Anything – Oliver Appropriate
Queen of Jeans – If You’re Not Afraid, I’m Not Afraid
Lizzo – Cuz I Love You
Maggie Rogers – Heard it in a Past Life

Posted by Kiel Hauck

The 30 Best Albums of the Decade: 11-20

You can view part one of our Best Albums of the Decade feature here.

20. Panic! at the Disco – Vices and Virtues

Vices & Virtues is arguably the greatest comeback story in the history of music. After the departure of half the band (including the main songwriter), Brendon Urie and Spencer Smith resurrected Panic! at The Disco to heights that no one could have ever imagined. Urie mastered the art of playing multiple instruments and writing lyrics, while Smith layered each song with hypnotizing percussion. Vices & Virtues reunited the band with the glamorized pop sound that initially made them famous while forging a sound unique to the two albums that came before it. Without Vices & Virtues, it’s hard to see how Panic! At The Disco would have ever found the footing to absolutely dominate the radio in a time when the medium seems almost defunct. – Kyle Schultz

19. CHVRCHES – The Bones of What You Believe

One can argue the true genesis of the decade’s indie synthpop revival, but there is no denying that The Bones of What You Believe served as the movement’s North Star. While the previous decade was overrun with egrieged boys spewing venom over distorted guitars, vocalist Lauren Mayberry flipped the script for the 2010s, with a buzzsaw of dark, emotive (and catchy) hooks over shimmering synthesizers. The 12 tracks of CHVRCHES’ debut worm their way into your brain from the first listen and set a startlingly high bar for a sound that defined the decade. – Kiel Hauck

18. Twenty One Pilots – Blurryface

After two years of silence following their Fueled By Ramen debut, Vessel, Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun released 2015’s Blurryface. The album is arguably their most popular, and put them on the front of every major music publication. Their catchy refrains and energetic live shows continue to fill up stadiums worldwide, and their outspokenness about mental health awareness has kept the band on the tip of everyone’s tongue throughout the back half of the 2010s. – Nadia Paiva

17. My Chemical Romance – Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys

The greatest sin committed by Danger Days is that it faced the monumental task of meeting unprecedented expectations. Taking a massive swing, My Chemical Romance wrote an epic rock fantasy that firmly planted its own distinct sound in the band’s catalog. It doesn’t always stick the landing, such as truly explaining the story concepts that make such a prominent role in the songs and their titles. However, what does work is ambitious, driving, and as catchy as anything the band has ever written. For a band celebrated for music about depression and vampires, Danger Days took us on the adventure the band had always wanted to explore in the first place. – KS

16. letlive. – The Blackest Beautiful

Punk music needed a voice like Jason Aalon Butler’s in the 2010s, and it may have gotten more than it bargained for. The Blackest Beautiful was one of the most ferocious albums of the decade and solidified letlive.’s place among the post-hardcore elite. Across the album’s 11 tracks, we see the promise of a raw, unbridled band coalesce before our very eyes, harnessing an urgency that had been missing in a genre that demands it. That The Blackest Beautiful pushes all if its chips toward its passionate social and political message only solidifies its place as one of the decade’s only punk classics. In hindsight, letlive. may have flown too close to the sun, but this moment of fire was worth it. – KH

15. Paramore – Paramore

The self-titled album was a big comeback for Paramore. Having gone through a rocky cycle with 2009’s Brand New Eyes, the band regrouped and rebranded themselves as a bonafide pop band in 2013.  “Ain’t It Fun” won Best Rock Song at the 57th Grammys, making it the band’s first Grammy award. The album has all of the great things we loved in Paramore’s previous work, but it also paved the way for their 80s-influenced After Laughter. – NP

14. Hellogoodbye – Would it Kill You?

Would It Kill You? subverted all expectations placed on it at release, seamlessly blending modern pop, pop rock and classic pop into a sound unlike anything else in music. Hellogoodbye singer Forrest Kline sounds completely energized, having turned the focus of the music from electronic rock to folk-pop. The songs pulse with energy and sweet emotion, letting the band take chances and push their own boundaries to great effect. The deftly crafted layers of pop music and the blending of genres make this album sound like a true work of art, breathing new life into a band some had already blown off as a one hit wonder. – KS

13. Frank Ocean – Blonde

Four years after the release of his jaw-dropping debut album, Channel Orange, Frank Ocean fans had begun to resign themselves to the idea that there may never be a follow-up. But Blonde came suddenly, and excitement quickly transitioned to awe. Blonde is complicated, mesmerizing and intense – the work of an introverted artist meandering through the halls of his past, dangling answers before quickly replacing them with more questions. Psychedelic and smooth, Ocean explores sexuality, social constructs, and inner truth in equal measure, crafting one of the most immersive and ambiguously beautiful records of the decade. – KH

12. Lana Del Rey – Born to Die

This is definitely more of a personal choice for me, because other than the single “Video Games”, this album was underrated when it was released in 2012. I feel like it has become a gateway for a lot of people (and artists who would later claim the term) to a more self aware, grittier side of music that they might not have been drawn to if it wasn’t for tracks like “Off to the Races” or “Summertime Sadness”. This album is also a prime example of perseverance, because even though it’s not Lana Del Rey’s most critically acclaimed album, it didn’t stop her from releasing incredible music later in the decade. – NP

11. Taylor Swift – Red

Taylor Swift was a phenom before the release of Red, but this album opened her up to an entirely new audience. Combining modern pop songs with country proved to be a bridge between genres that fans could easily grasp onto. While Red prepped Swift for her foray into pop music, it also pulled new fans into the genre of country music even if they would have never been interested before. The album captures the feeling of past loves, with all of the happiness and anger that comes with them, and attempts to find meaning between the two. Hiding between genres, Red harnesses the strengths of country, pop, and rock to unite anyone willing with the same emotions. – KS

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Podcast: Summer 2019 and the Death of Genre

This year’s song of the summer is undeniable, but what does it tell us about the future of music? Evan Sawdey of PopMatters joins Kiel Hauck to break down the success of “Old Town Road”, the rise of Billie Eilish, and the odd absence of some of pop music’s biggest stars on the charts this summer. They also discuss Taylor Swift’s new album, Lover, break down their “deserted island discographies,” and share their most anticipated albums set to release in the back half of 2019. Listen in!

Like our podcast? Come join the conversation on Flick Chat.

What was your song of the summer? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Review: Taylor Swift – Lover

Photo by Valheria Rocha

What I appreciate the most about Taylor Swift is the “re-watch value” of her music. Every new single is almost guaranteed to annoy me on first listen (“ME!”), but in the context of the album itself, become something great. Lover, the seventh album from Swift, is no exception. There is so much to unpack throughout the 18 tracks that one listen can’t possibly be enough to take it all in. What stands out the most about Lover is that it lives and dies by making the listener feel jubilant until the very end.

You can buy or stream Lover on Apple Music.

Lover seemingly picks up where 2014’s 1989 left off—sizzling synth, lyrics dripping in romance, and a bright feeling leveled throughout each song. There isn’t much of a hint of Reputation’s aggressiveness to be found on the surface, save for the opening track (“I Forgot That You Existed”). Looking deeper into the songs though, there is a refinement to her writing that takes shape from Reputation. Lover is, for perhaps the first time, a true mix of all of Swift’s past releases. The poppy synth blends with deep R&B beats, while Swift’s classic twang peeks through her vocals from time to time. Occasionally, songs like “Lover”, which relies on piano and guitar, crank up the nostalgia of her storied career.

Impressive in its own right is Swift’s use of minimalism in her music. She allows the quiet to be an instrument itself behind her smooth vocals (“Cornelia Street”) along with haunted, hushed instrumentation. At other times, a very simple wall of melody lays the bed as a surface for her vocals to jump on (“The Archer”). Meanwhile, “Cruel Summer”, a layered pop jam that chronicles the hesitancy to be vulnerable in a relationship, bounces on its own as a hit single waiting to happen.

Intentional or not, discovering songs that feel like follow ups to stories / songs from past albums is an unexpected joy. The hypnotically cheerful “Paper Rings” follows a simple dance melody and bouncing bass that sounds like a sister song to Red’s “Stay Stay Stay”, a song steeped in cheesy romance so strong it forces a smile. Lead single “ME!” (Featuring the masterful Brendon Urie) is already noted for its marching band-inspired beats and cheer section, reminiscent of the self-empowering “Shake It Off”.

If there is a theme to Lover, it’s one of hope. The album tells many stories, each looking forward to a happy future. “Cruel Summer” hints at the blossoming love between two people (“I scream, ‘For whatever it’s worth / I love you, ain’t that the worst thing you ever heard?’ / He looks up, grinning like a devil”).

“Miss American & The Heartbreak Prince” is the one track that sounds like a downer, but there are specks of light coming through until the end. The song feels in equal parts a story about young romance (“They whisper in the hallway, ‘she’s a bad bad girl’) and a commentary on politics (“American stories burning before me / I’m feeling helpless, the damsels are depressed / Boys will be boys, then where are the wise men?”). Even here, peppy shouts of “Go! Fight! Win!” punch through the fog of moody synth.

Lover is not a perfect album. It’s hard not to continuously roll your eyes during “London Boy”, and at 18 songs, the album feels just a few tracks too long. Ironically, you could make a pretty aggressive drinking game with the staggering amount of references to alcohol and being drunk that crop up in almost every song. Lover is almost magical in the warmth its synth pop presents. However, songs like “Soon You’ll Get Better”, featuring the Dixie Chicks, an acoustic ballad interwoven with banjo and violin, make it hard not to miss Swift’s past, even if her future is brighter than ever.

4.5/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and literally just spilled an ENTIRE cup of water across the ENTIRE kitchen floor in an attempt to keep the cat from doing just that. Please send him towels.

Podcast: Diving into Taylor Swift’s New Track “Me”

There is new music from Taylor Swift and it is in the form of a song called “Me”. Kiel Hauck and Kyle Schultz dive in to unpack the new single and talk about the career trajectories of Swift and Brendon Urie, along with Swift’s many random ties to the scene. They also break down the gorgeous music video for the track and speculate wildly on what Swift’s upcoming album might bring. Listen in!

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What are your expectations for Taylor Swift’s new album? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

5 Things Taylor Swift’s Clock Could Be Counting Down to

Taylor Swift is going to announce something this coming Friday, April 26. We know this because her website recently began counting down to that date and her social media channels are teasing what that date might bring. The problem is, it’s all so ambiguous, there’s really no consensus on what it all means or what will actually happen.

In the spirit of conjecture, we’ve compiled our five best guesses as to what will happen on Friday. Some of them are silly, some are not. Will any of them be correct? I guess we’ll find out on Friday.

1. Taylor Releases a New Line of Sunglasses for Chickens

This is one of the silly ones. Or is it? Just this weekend, her social media accounts shared an image of various chicken artwork, all of which include pictures of chickens in sunglasses with the caption 4.26.

So if you want to get super literal about things, it’s kind of obvious what the countdown is leading us toward. And it kinda makes sense, right? I mean, chickens are out in the sun a lot and would probably welcome a little protection from the rays. Except they don’t have ears, so that makes it kind of hard. Okay, maybe this isn’t it.

2. Taylor Ends Her Running Feud with Katy Perry

Wait, is this feud still a thing? Honestly, I’m not going to look it up to find out, but a common conversation around this mysterious countdown is that it’s a hard pivot from the dark vibes that led up to Taylor’s last album, Reputation. The colors are bright and things seem pretty chill. So maybe it’s all good now. But that would be a weird thing to announce on a Friday. So that’s probably not it. But let’s hope the hatchet gets buried anyway.

3. Taylor Launches Her Own Streaming Service

With six full-length albums under her belt and multiple music videos and live tour recordings, Taylor has built quite the multimedia collection. With so many streaming services popping up, why not follow suit and launch her own service? This time, her music is pulled from Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube and other services for good – and for the low price of $4.26 per month, you can gain access to every Taylor song and video your heart desires.

But that’s kinda what Tidal is for Jay-Z these days and I honestly can’t remember the last time someone told me they used Tidal, so this is probably a bad idea and not it.

4. Taylor Announces Her Retirement

For someone still under the age of 30, Taylor Swift has had a pretty unbelievable career. She’s won almost every award you can win for making music, has toured the world multiple times over, and is generally regarded as one of the most successful pop artists of her generation. What’s left to prove?

Except that’s not really how being an artist works – you don’t really just quit creating. And plus, that would be a huge bummer, cuz I would love to keep listening to new music created by Taylor Swift, so that’s probably not what this is, but it leads us to our most likely outcome.

5. Taylor Shares a New Single and Gives a Release Date for Her New Album

Sometimes the most obvious answer is the right one. I highly doubt we’re getting a full new album on Friday, because that’s generally not how these things work, but I feel fairly confident that there will be new music and it will probably be in the form of one song.

We’ll also probably get a late summer release date for her new album, which will be fun to look forward to. Also, we’ll get to hear whatever this next stage of artistic evolution sounds like, which I’m pretty interested to find out. So let’s just go with that. Hooray for new music from Taylor Swift (hopefully)!

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

10 Classic Music Videos Turning 10 in 2019

One of my favorite late-night weekend activities is pouring myself (another) drink and going down memory lane on YouTube, watching some of my favorite music videos. It’s probably no surprise that it’s around this time every year that I decide to compile a list of music videos turning 10 years old – it’s bitter cold outside and it’s all too easy to curl up under a blanket on the couch and play them endlessly.

Interestingly enough, 2009 was filled with music videos from artists that were coming into their own: Taylor Swift, Drake, Lady Gaga and more. Their videos also seemed to speak to something deeper within the artists themselves. Let’s kick back and drift back in time to enjoy some of the best videos that 2009 had to offer.

Taylor Swift – “You Belong with Me”

While the public at large often associates Taylor Swift’s crossover smash “You Belong with Me” with Kanye West’s acceptance speech interruption at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, the video itself gives us an early glimpse of Swift’s duality. Playing both the protagonist and antagonist – nerdy bookworm and preppy cheerleader – the video’s narrative bends in the direction of her innocent side. It’s fascinating that after a decade-long evolution, Swift’s current work finds her exploring the other end of the spectrum.

Boys Like Girls – “Love Drunk”

As an unabashed fan of Boys Like Girls’ self-titled debut album, I was a little more than excited for their follow up in 2009. Love Drunk took all of the saccharine melody from the band’s debut and infused it pulsing beats to form a blend of emo power pop. The video for the album’s first single finds the band performing at an arcade as a bunch of guys awkwardly attempt to win the affections of a young lady. I guess the moral of the story is…that band dudes always get the girl? Or something?

Paramore – “Brick by Boring Brick”

As brand new eyes turns 10 years old, I felt it my obligation to give time of day to the album’s most overlooked single. Perhaps the most divisive track on the album, the video for “Brick by Boring Brick” captures the fairy tale juxtaposition of the song perfectly. Near the end of the video, a glowing Hayley Williams watches Josh Farro dig what can only be understood as the grave for the pre-2010’s era of Paramore. Kinda sad, right?

Drake, Kanye West, Lil Wayne and Eminem – “Forever”

While 2009 was a bit of an odd year for hip hop, it’s remembered best for the arrival of Drake. Here he amazingly shares the stage with three hip hop heavyweights in a video that follows the rise of LeBron James from young basketball prodigy to NBA superstar. Has anyone ever called their shot better? Ten years later, Drake is still one of the most powerful forces in music.

Ke$ha – “Tik Tok”

Speaking of introductions, Kesha’s “Tik Tok” was the perfect primer for one of 2009’s polarizing new pop figures and is still just as much fun as it was 10 years ago. After waking up in the bathtub of a vanilla suburban family, Kesha treks out the door to hop on a golden bike, complimented by an American flag. By the end of the video, there’s glitter everywhere. At some point, you have to throw caution to the wind and enjoy the ride.

Lady Gaga – “Bad Romance”

Lady Gaga’s music video for “Bad Romance” is still perfectly weird, featuring wacky costumes, awkward dance moves, people crawling out of futuristic pods and a group of supermodels trying to sell her to the Russian mafia. As wonderful as “A Star is Born”-era Gaga has been to witness, it’s hard not to long for those early days when literally everything she touched was off-the-wall bananas.

Taking Back Sunday – “Sink Into Me”

The dirty little secret about Taking Back Sunday’s most divisive album is that it’s actually pretty good and holds up well 10 years later. The lead single from 2009’s New Again was “Sink Into Me”, which featured a music video of Adam Lazzara and the boys sinking into…a tar pit? It’s messy, but it sure looks like they’re having a good time.

The Devil Wears Prada – “Danger: Wildman”

“I know a ghost!” That opening cry from The Devil Wears Prada frontman Mike Hranica on “Danger: Wildman” has become a late aughts metalcore highlight, as has his missing-tooth appearance in this dark video filled with skeletons and a mysterious bearded man. This track still goes hard and it’s delightful to think about how far this band had come by their big moment in the spotlight in 2009.

Owl City – “Fireflies”

Can you believe it’s been 10 years since Adam Young, better known as Owl City, pressed a button on his keyboard marked “Magic” and brought the toys and objects in his bedroom alive? Me neither. It’s still amazing to think about what a phenomenon this song became, and I can’t help but smile when watching the video now. I’m especially fond of the monkey playing the cymbals and the tiny seal on the turntable.

Mayday Parade – “The Silence”

Here’s a bit of trivia you maybe didn’t know: “The Silence” was originally written to be included on the “New Moon” soundtrack. While the song failed to go down in Twilight lore, it’s still works as a pretty great inclusion on Mayday Parade’s sophomore effort (and major label debut) Anywhere But Here. The video is full of color and slo-mo shots of hot air balloons. Neat, huh?

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Most Anticipated of 2019: #5 Taylor Swift Leaves Her Reputation Behind

Though Taylor Swift is one of the biggest names in the world, Reputation left many wanting. Swift claims that each new album is used to document a new chapter of her life. Although Reputation is barely a year old, this chapter seems to be closed after an extremely popular worldwide tour and Netflix Special.

There are already hints that Swift is already hard at work on her next album and there’s no reason to think it will be anything less than a stellar deep dive into the pop ether. Since most of her albums come after about two years, it’s par for the course to expect her seventh album to drop before the end of 2019.

After defending her reputation against feuds with Kanye West, Katy Perry, and public perception, this next chapter is looking to pick of the pieces of what’s left and run free.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and could not be more excited for new music to tickle his ears in 2019.